Tuesday, September 21, 2021


"...to this they (bishops, priests, all the Catholic faithful) feel obliged in conscience, and with a generosity and constancy worthy of all praise, they are firmly determined to make adequate provision for what they openly profess as their motto: 'Catholic education in Catholic schools for all the Catholic youth.'"

-Pope Pius XI, 1929, Divini Illius Magistri, #82

Sir Isaac Newton, in what might be considered a backhanded compliment to his predecessors in science, said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants" (Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke, 1675). Regardless of Newton's intent, though, this line honoring those that have come before us testifies to the fact that we owe much to our ancestors. 

In Catholic education within the United States, those of us blessed to minister in this way definitely stand on the shoulders of giants. From bishops and priests who navigated oppressive waters to preserve the Catholic faith of their flocks, to waves of religious women who heroically supplied Catholic schools with their teaching and charisms, and parents and families who helped build our schools with with brick, mortar, and sweat, we can see further because of the work of these giants of Catholic schools. 

We stand upon a solid foundation thanks to these pioneers; we must also embrace their vision for Catholic education that we should see clearly from this heightened vantage point: "Catholic education in Catholic schools for all the Catholic youth." 

This powerful vision stems from a deep belief in the power of Catholic education. Catholic education "takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ" (Pope Pius XI, 1929, #95). Therefore, Catholic education casts a really wide net. Given the fact that Catholic schools form students in all subject matters, including religion, and that this takes place over the course of five full school days, this wide net also can and should run deep.

Since Catholic schools can and should have a deep impact on the formation of their students, this shouldn't be exclusive to Catholics. Pope Pius XI writes, "(H)er mission to educate extends equally to those outside the Fold, seeing that all (people) are called to enter the kingdom of God and reach eternal salvation" (1929, #26). As such, the Church's vision of Catholic education declared by Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri should be extended to see beyond the walls of our Church:
Catholic education of the highest quality to as many students as possible.

This vision, this picture of the preferred future within Catholic schools, is what the world should look like when programs like the Alliance for Catholic Education and the many notches within its wide and deep net, cast out into the deep and lower their nets for a catch. By forming dynamic teachers and transformational leaders informed and inspired by a Catholic worldview, while also forming educators in the areas such as STEM, inclusion, and English as a New Language in the context of our rich faith, we can sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools. We can and must make our Catholic schools more academically excellent, spiritually rich, holistically formative, and accessible to all children and families, regardless of academic standing, financial status, or religious affiliation. 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dove_of_the_Holy_Spirit.png 

May those of us in Catholic education blessed enough to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us, see this vision with clarity, and may we pursue it with zeal and conviction united with each other and in cooperation with "divine grace" (Pope Pius XI, 1929, #94).    


British Broadcasting Corporation. (n.d.). Learning English - Moving Wordshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/movingwords/shortlist/newton.shtml 

Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini Illius Magistri. In Nuzzi, R., and Hunt, T. (Eds.), At the Heart of the Church: Selected documents of Catholic education, (pp. 37 - 60). Alliance for Catholic Education Press.


Monday, September 20, 2021


Growing up as a teenager in Northeast Ohio, my favorite song was “Jesus Freak” by dc Talk (see below for a link!). Its mix of rap and rock spoke to my eclectic musical tastes, and its message of standing out in the name of Christ struck a chord with my attempts to discover and identify who God created me to be.

Freak, according to dc Talk’s usage of the word, means an ardent enthusiast. If you stand for anything, stand for Jesus. If you want to be different, be different because of your relationship with Christ. 

I think that being a Jesus Freak served as my training ground for leading with zeal

Programmatically and charismatically, the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program's definition of zeal comes from Bl. Basil Moreau: 

(T)he great desire to make God known, loved, and served, and thus to bring knowledge of salvation to others. (Moreau, 1856/2006)

Moreau goes on to state that zeal fills teachers with “enthusiasm, love, courage, and perseverance” and that “without it, everything falls apart” (Moreau, 1856/2006). Zeal is energy and spirit and it fuels all aspects of our ministries and lives. Zeal is the gas that puts the other dispositions into motion. 

A deeper investigation into zeal uncovered for me new insights about what zeal is and how we can protect and foster it. 

First, zeal, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, flows from an intensity of love. Other definitions of zeal classify it as love in action, the state of being hot or beginning to boil, or a deep affection that seeks to obtain what is loved or to remove what stands in the way (ETWN Global Catholic Network, 1998; Trinity Communications, 2021).

Put simply, zeal is love

After driving the merchants out of the temple, Jesus’s disciples recalled the words of the Psalmist, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17 and Psalm 69:10). In other words, love for His Father and His Father’s Kingdom in heaven and on earth consumed Jesus. It directed all of His activities. It inspired His life and ministry. 

Love impelled Him. Zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him. 

May it consume and impel us as well.

At this point in this year, though, our supplies of zeal may be in short supply. We may feel so consumed by vaccinations and masks and mandates and policies that our zeal might seem like a faint flicker, fading ember, or even extinguished altogether. 

Heads up and hearts out, though, sisters and brothers. Be encouraged. 


My second new insight about zeal/love is this: the way to increase our zeal, our love for Jesus, is to increase our contact with Him. We can’t love - and truly don’t love - people with whom we do not interact. 

So, interact with Jesus.

Encounter Him in the scriptures. Every day He speaks anew the words of the Gospel. Not relegated to a specific time and group of people, He has the words of eternal life and His words are meant for you and me and everyone. Allow His words to speak life to you each day. 

Interact with Jesus by seeing Him in your relationships with others. We are made in the image of a Triune God; relationships, therefore, are pathways to holiness. Commune with Jesus in your words and deeds to others. Remember, where two or more are gathered in His name... 

Receive Jesus in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Or, put more accurately, be received by Jesus through these celebrations. Allow Him to wrap His healing arms around you in love during Reconciliation. Allow Him to consume you as He lovingly offers you His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Let your “Amen” in response to the words, “Body of Christ” affirm your belief in His Real Presence and inspire you to become Who you receive.

In this way, let your “Amen” be your commitment to go be Christ’s Body out in the world. Strengthened and nourished by His love, His zeal, go make God known, loved, and served.  

Go be a Jesus Freak. Be an ardent enthusiast of Christ, because He is an ardent enthusiast of you.  

Go lead with zeal. 

Go lead with love.       


dc Talk (2009, February 24). Jesus Freak [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/kbB0QrBIs9k 

ETWN Global Catholic Network (1998). Zeal. ETWN. https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/zeal-12796 

Moreau, B. (2006). Christian Education (S. Walsh, Ed.). Holy Cross Institute at St. Edward’s University. (Original work published 1856). https://catholicliberaleducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/moreau-christian_education.pdf  

Trinity Communications (2021). Catholic Dictionary. Catholic Culture. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=37230